Stay home. It’s a simple message Manitobans and Canadians have heard day after day for weeks.
“We need Manitobans to realize this is serious,” chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said during his daily press conference. “This is life and death.”
However, it’s a message that many people seem to be ignoring.
“We are looking at any way we can enforce this,” Roussin said. “It doesn’t just affect you. It’s quite literally about saving Manitobans’ lives.”
Currently, all private and public gatherings of more than 10 people are restricted and when people must go out for essentials they are told to listen to physical distancing guidelines and stay two metres, or six feet, apart.
“This is vital right now especially in these next number of weeks that we flatten this curve,” he said. “We have orders in place; we expect Manitobans to follow them.”
Roussin said the province has been receiving tips of large in-person church services still happening and large gatherings of people at homes and in public spaces. Health inspectors have been following up on tips and investigating.
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But the premier said that unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be stopping some people.
“It’s a concern when people refuse to understand the hurtful consequences of their thoughtless conduct,” Premier Brian Pallister said when pressed by reporters at a press conference Monday. “Sadly, not everyone seems to be getting the message.”
It means the province will soon start actively enforcing and possibly fining people who aren’t complying.
“It is on the radar to see if there are necessary deterrents that need be pursued because of this. Sadly, that’s necessary given the reality that some are disrespecting the rest of us.”
Pallister said there is now an expectation from Manitobans that there are consequences for those who aren’t abiding by the guidelines.
“Unfortunately, for some people, a financial penalty or deterrent of some kind is about the only way it will click into them,” Pallister said.
In other provinces, police have taken over enforcement in tandem with health officers and inspectors.
Last weekend, police did an enforcement blitz at the direction of Toronto Mayor John Tory.
People there were handed out fines ranging from $750 to $5,000.
For police in Manitoba to enforce any possible new regulations, the Winnipeg Police Service said it would need direction from the city or province as it is not currently their responsibility.
“There are legal elements that would be put into place where that would be the responsibility of the police,” Const. Rob Carver said. “Provincial health officers are responsible currently for for the directive that was released last week by the premier. We simply don’t have part of that.”
Pallister said he will be releasing more information in the “not-too-distant future.”
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